When you are involved in a dispute, perhaps with a former friend, client or retailer, it is always better to try to resolve the dispute before it reaches the courts. Write to the other party demanding payment, or other result, within a certain time limit and threatening court action if you are not paid. If that does not work, and you want to make a claim or a claim is made against you, you will need to understand the court process, which can be bewildering.
We have prepared this guide to ‘small claims’ (claims up to £10,000) to help you through the court process and to help you to avoid or minimise legal fees. The guide is not, however, intended to constitute legal or other advice. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to any particular circumstances.
You might want to start a claim in the county court because someone: owes you money; damages your property; supplies you with faulty goods; or provides a poor standard of workmanship. In this guide we use the example of a computer worth £2,000 which was not paid for, and show sample court documents where appropriate.
Before spending money in making a court claim (which will include court fees and potentially witness or expert expenses) you should consider whether the other party is likely to be able to pay you. If they have no money to pay you it is not worth spending money on court proceedings. If you think they may be bankrupt or insolvent, please ask us to carry out a search on your behalf (for payment of a small fee).
You can also find out if a person you are claiming from already has unpaid court judgments against him (he is less likely to pay you if so) by searching the Register of County Court Judgments. This can be done on-line at www.trustonline.org.uk or by writing to Registry Trust Limited, at 153 – 157 Cleveland Street, London W1T 6QW (telephone 020 7380 0133) with a cheque for £4.00 against each name you are interested in (three or more names £10).
Copies of all the court forms referred to can be obtained from your local county court or from the Court Service website which also contains useful guidance leaflets on all stages of making a claim (www.justice.gov.uk and click on ‘Courts’ then ‘Find a court form’ on the right hand side).
If you are claiming a specified sum of money you can make a claim on-line (www.moneyclaim.gov.uk). If you decide to use this service you should follow the on-line guidance on how to progress the claim.
Alternatively, you can take part in a pilot scheme, the Online Civil Money Claims pilot for cases worth up to £10,000 including interest. It is aimed at people who actively want to deal with their claim themselves and believe that the other party will also not seek help from lawyers. The scheme uses its own forms and procedure and the claim must meet certain criteria, check here, at Section 2, paragraph 2.1(3). If your case is suitable, you can access the on-line platform at https://www.gov.uk/make-money-claim. This guide may still be useful to give you an overview of the legal process.
Remember to keep copies of all correspondence and court documents.